The Miami Heat are the 2012 NBA champions. For some, it is vindication that LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh are championship caliber players. But the lessons learned by James and Wade, in particular, were more important than winning the championship. James and Wade learned that growing as men was more important that proving their skills as basketball players.
In post-game interviews, both men expressed that the drive to the championship was extremely challenging. After losing the championship in 2011, both men understood that their basketball skills could always be improved, but they also realized that it would require a paradigm shift in how each man saw himself. No individual has ever won a team championship. Both men embraced that fact and understood that their teammates would be vital components in any championship run.
In a post-game interview with Shaquille O’Neal, Wade talked about how Shaq had deferred to Wade in their 2006 championship run. Wade explained that he realized he should defer to James for the betterment of the team, and did so without complaint. But Wade also made the point that deferring to James did not diminish his own importance to the team. That’s the logical, rational thinking of a man who has learned some lessons.
James, in all of his post-game interviews, talked about how it was necessary for him to do some serious introspection after the 2011 season. He realized he had to get back to being himself, and not what others thought he should be. Trying to prove the naysayers wrong was futile. What was really important was learning how to be a better man off the court.
You become a man when you clearly distinguish between who you are from what you do. Wade and James are basketball players. That’s their job. That’s what they do. But they didn’t win the championship until they became men. That is the lesson to be learned. Be responsible. Be respectful. Work hard. Be a man first, and the other things will follow.